Lake Tahoe – or the big blue pill, as they call it – is the gem of the west and an amazing sight to behold from a bird’s eye view. However, if you don’t have time for miles of hiking, or if you’re not quite in shape for summiting peaks, it can be hard to know where to go for a great view. So here are two great locations that are easy to reach and offer amazing lake views.
These two spots would be great for viewing the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, August 21.
Location One: The Tahoe Rim Trail
The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 112-mile trail that circles the Tahoe basin’s valleys and peaks. Fortunately, there are plenty of access points that are ideal for day hikes. A great one with an amazing view is off the Brockway Summit/highway 267 access point.
If you’re coming from Truckee, turn right just after the actual Brockway summit (just past the elevation sign.) For those of you familiar with the area, this is where Tahoe Snowmobile Tours operates in the winter. Follow Mt. Watson road almost to the end and park where the rim trail (the dotted line) crosses the road marked “109.”
The grey line is the drive, then follow the dotted trail to the red circle, which is where the lookout is.
Then, hike up (like, literally up; don’t go downhill) for about a mile. You’ll go past a few switchbacks and cross a dirt road (you can see the trail cross the road on the map.) After that, you’re only steps away from the viewpoint. It’s up on the left and features big rocks you can climb out on. The view here is exceptional, looking out on the north shore and down towards Carnelian Bay. There’s hardly ever anyone up here, except for a few mountain bikers here and there.
From the viewpoint, head back the way you came, or keep going about another 1.5 miles to reach Watson Lake and the rest of the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Location Two: The Martis Peak Fire Lookout.
This is an easy place to find and offer a unique vantage point of both Tahoe, and views of Truckee all the way out to Sardine Valley, up by Sierraville. The hike is only about .5 miles, and it’s on a flat, well maintained dirt road.
To get here, coming from Truckee, make a left on Martis Peak Road before Brockway Summit. It’s just past the clearing with the little falling apart shelter, for those of you familiar with the road.
Martis Peak Road twists and turns, but if you follow the paved portion of it, you’ll be on the right track. Watch out for mountain bikers and go slow as the road is two-way but narrow in places. Follow the road, winding your way up, until you see a locked gate. You can park here or, if you can’t find space, just back up and park anywhere on the side of the road below it.
I’ve highlighted the route and the parking point on the map above.
Walk past the gate and up the dirt road until you reach the fire lookout station. You’re welcome to walk up on the deck. If you’re lucky, a fire lookout ranger will be there to show you the tools they use to find and report fires, which is actually pretty interesting. From here, you can see the entire California side of the lake, plus the three reservoirs in Truckee (Stampede, Boca, and Prosser.) On a clear day, you can see up to the Sardine Valley, about an hour north of Truckee.
From here, if you want an even better view, continue up to the dirt trail above the lookout station. It leads to several rock piles with stunning views. The first rock pile is actually not the viewpoint – you need to walk around it to a second rock pile to see the views. It’s probably another ⅓ – ½ of a mile past the fire lookout station.
Have other suggestions for rarely crowded, awesome Tahoe viewpoints? Let me know!